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Hawaii’s Big Island: Ask the Locals Travel Guide

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Kona Hawaii Hammock - photo by Kona Village ResortTune in on Saturday June 26 to Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio, coming to us from the historic Kona Village Resort in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Want to know where Big Islanders like to hang out in their down time?

We’ve got the story, as told by the locals.

Rob Pacheco, owner, Hawaii Forest & Trail

Much of Kona’s land is private property. For those who like to hike, beware of trespassing.

Bird in a Hawaiian Forest - photo via Hawaii Forest & TrailI recommend taking the hike that leads to the monument of Captain Cook, a famous symbol in Hawaiian culture. It was here when the British explorer was killed in a fight against the Hawaiians to keep their land. Hike about two and a half miles, and 1,500 feet up and down in elevation, on Napoopoo Road ending at Kealakekua Bay. Kealakekua Bay has some of the best snorkeling that the island offer. After a long hike, there is nothing better than a refreshing swim in the Bay.

Visit our Hawaii Travel section for more ideas.

Fall and early winter are the best times to explore and hike through Kona. These months bring a slower pace to the island with fewer tourists. The weather is the finest.

Coffee growing in KonaIt’s a great time to see birds and flowers; there are vibrant colors because of late tropical blooms. Late in the year, December/January, is also when the humpbacks return. This makes for perfect whale watching experiences.

The Kona Coffee Cultural Festival is worth a visit, too. Started 40 years ago, this is the oldest food festival in Hawaii. Traditionally, the people of Kona come together in November to support local growers and celebrate the product of Hawaii. Not too many visitors come, but it is a wonderful place to witness the support of the local community. Not to mention, there are great deals fly and stay in Kona during these months.

Learn more: Hawaii Celebrates Big 5-0 Amid Downturn, Offers Deals.

Island Burgers is a new restaurant on Kona. All of the beef and vegetables are grown in the area. Everything is fresh and delicious.

Teshima’s Restaurant - Kealakekua, HawaiiAs for a staple restaurant of Kona, check out Teshima’s. Established in the 1940s, Grandma Teshima built a tiny Japanese-American restaurant to suit everyone’s tastes.

At the age of 103, she is still there cooking up her old recipes. Breakfasts are tasty and cheap. This is a real local spot.

Located at 79-7251 Mamalohoa Highway in Kealakekua.

To get a better feel for the culture of Kona, go down at the harbor after 3 p.m..

There is no better way to end a long day than sipping on a big schooner of beer while watching the fishing boats come in. This is how many locals end the work day.

Try another local treat: Best Places for Shave Ice in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Chef Mark Tsuchiyama, Kona Village Resort

Wok-seared ahi tuna - Merriman’sMerriman’s Restaurant brings local flavors to the table, literally. Owner, Peter Merriman’s restaurant was founded on the idea of “farm to table.” Merriman works closely with local farmers, ranchers and fisherman to bring the finest Hawaiian cuisine straight to the table. The signature dishes are always delicious. The wok-charred ahi and the Kahlua pork quesadilla are good representations of Kona cuisine. But, always consider the specials: these new dishes showcase the best flavors of the season.

Waimea is a big farming town and is also home to one of the better farmers markets on island. The Kamuela Farmers Market is open every Saturday. This smaller, lesser-known market has a great variety of vegetables and flowers to be sold. There is no denying the freshness of these products. One vendor even brings his portable oven to bake bread on the spot! Small farmers come and put out all their products, whatever is in season. But get there early because there is not a large quantity of crops, but they are all very the best quality.

By Grace Leigh Kelly for PeterGreenberg.com.

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